TIFF is about celebrating community

Actress Natalie Portman signs an autograph during last year's TIFF. She's expected to attend this year's festival for her film Black Swan. (Evan Agostini)

By Christine Estima, Citizen contributor

christine-bio-52.jpgBeing in Toronto during TIFF is one of the highlights of every Torontonian's year, and visitors from across the country (and even the world) descend upon our humble Hollywood North for a chance encounter with infamy.

Yet even with TIFF in its 35th year, you'd think by now we would be used to the international spotlight the festival garners. Our unassuming Canadian sensibilities force us into disbelief that anyone would (gasp) want to come here. When celebrities from such happenin' places like L.A., New York, or London proclaim their love of Toronto and Canada, we alternate between elated and confused. Even when The Huffington Post recently published an extensive article about Toronto, proclaiming it "the new capital of Cool," we were flattered but then proceeded to point out the flaws.

I say, let us no more indulge in our polite "Canadian" inferiority complex. Let's just brazenly admit it, Toronto is pretty fricken awesome, and TIFF is the finest example of that. Why? Many people don't know this, but TIFF is actually the largest film festival in the world open to the public (Cannes is closed to the public). I think that exemplifies what Toronto (and by extension, Canada) is all about -- community. Access. Integration. We lay out the welcome mat and never take it away. You walk these streets, you sit in a café, you attend a rock concert, you cycle through a park -- with any of these activities, you can bet your boots you'll at some point end up having a friendly chat with a stranger.

When you joined the long queue at the TIFF box office, you ended up chatting with the person in line ahead of you. When you sat in the rush line for your favourite TIFF premiere on the off chance of getting inside, you joked and giggled with the volunteers. When you waited for your favourite Hollywood star to show up at the glitzy red carpet event, you cheered and high-fived the other die-hards. TIFF isn't just about being cool, it's about celebrating our community, and others are taking notice.

Take a gander at how many Toronto/Canadian films premiering this year boast huge Hollywood names. Barney's Version has Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman. A Beginner's Guide To Endings has Harvey Keitel. Score: A Hockey Musical has Olivia Newton John. Casino Jack has Kevin Spacey, Daydream Nation has Kat Dennings, The High Cost of Living has Zach Braff, and the list goes on.

The world has noticed we have a pretty cool home and native land, and they're here to celebrate it for the 35th year in a row. So why don't you get out there and join them already!

Happy TIFFing, everyone!

You can follow Christine throughout #TIFF10 on Twitter at @christineestima